The opioid crisis has devastated the lives of countless millions of people here in the United States. To curb the situation and pay for efforts, there have $4.5 billion settlement involving Purdue Pharmaceutical as well as a $26 million settlement in July 2021 against the three largest U.S. distributors that supply pharmacies and hospitals – McKesson Corp, Cardinal Health Inc and AmerisourceBergen Corp – and drugmaker Johnson & Johnson.
Now a federal grand jury in Ohio found CVS, Walgreens and Walmart (three of the largest pharmacy chains in the country) also contributed to this crisis. This decision will likely have legal repercussions throughout the country.
A milestone victory
In a case called a milestone victory, jurors determined on November 23, 2021, that the three pharmacies contributed to a public nuisance in Lake and Trumbull counties by dispensing or selling massive amounts of prescription pain pills. Some of these legally purchased medications ended up on the black market, creating and feeding the residents’ addiction.
The chains claim they did nothing wrong, simply filling prescriptions written by licensed medical professionals. The prosecution alleged that pharmacies failed to take action as required by federal law. The illegal resale of pharmaceuticals is a community blight faced by cities and towns of all sizes across the country.
There will be separate proceedings to determine what the pharmacies will pay in damages. The total will likely run into the billions.
Other cases are pending
Some state Supreme Courts have declined public nuisance cases involving opioids, including California and Oklahoma, but Washington state and New York state both are moving forward with similar cases. The verdict bolsters efforts by thousands of local governments to get financial support with dealing with the problem that U.S. officials say involves 600,000 overdose deaths in the last two decades, including 100,000 in the last year.